Alienware Area-51 790i Specifications
Our specific review system was configured as an ultra high-end gaming platform, with top components like a Core 2 Extreme processor and ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB CrossFire graphics. That's the beauty of an Alienware system, as it can be tailored specifically to your own needs. Alienware also has a wide selection of products in some areas, such as offering multiple chassis colors, several different graphics options, and even a range of gaming keyboards and mice.
You can skimp a bit on some components and use that extra cash for a cutting-edge graphics card or CPU, go whole-hog in the memory, or even add specialized options like a Solid-State Drive or Blu-ray Burner. The online configuration system is also reminiscent of the Dell format, with each section clearly labeled and featuring nested, drop-down areas with multiple options and brands. For example, there are peripherals from Logitech, Razer, Saitek, SteelSeries, and others featured, and it's nice to see the actual brand and model clearly outlined.
Area-51 790i Quick Specs:
||Core 2 Extreme QX9770
790i Ultra SLI
||2x2GB Patriot EP+
||Dual Radeon HD 4870 X2
||Thermaltake 1200 Watt
||Windows Vista Home
|Primary Hard Drive
||Dual WD Velociraptor
|Secondary Hard Drive
||20X Dual Layer DVD Burner
||Sound Blaster X-Fi
||Logitech G9 Gaming Mouse
||Logitech G15 Keyboard
||Standard - Astral Blue
||1-Year AlienCare Onsite
Features of the Area-51
The system boots with a custom Alienware logo, but otherwise, it offers a standard BIOS setup program. All the basics are present, and the enthusiast-level controls include the usual CPU FSB/multiplier settings and options for various clock speeds and voltages. There are voltage settings for the CPU core and FSB, DDR3 memory, and nForce SPP and MCP. There are also voltage settings for the GTLVREF input lanes (4), which some more experienced overclockers will appreciate. The BIOS also offers user-configurable BIOS profiles that can be loaded and saved.
The front of the Alienware Area-51 is very utilitarian and only includes an on/off button on the front of the door. This case door swings open (to the left) to reveal the optical drive and front inputs. These include inputs for dual USB 2.0, Firewire and Mic/Headphone. There are also two open 5.25" bays for potential optical drive upgrades. This is a very good design, but the door opens to the left, so you'll need to situate your PC appropriately, and you have to open the case door to access the front inputs.
The back of the chassis features the power supply exhaust, the rear-mounted 120mm fan exhaust and the various ports and connectors. These include the dedicated graphics and audio card connectors, as well as the motherboard back panel with PS/2 mouse/keyboard, USB, eSATA, Firewire, Analog Video-out, Gigabit LAN, and default 7.1 audio ports. The side doors snap off easily by raising a clip, and can be reattached in the same manner.
The Area-51 system loads Vista with a dark-black Alienware background, and there is nothing else on the desktop. There is not much in the way of bloatware, and other than a few nice useful additions like PowerDVD and Nero Essentials, the default installation is remarkably clean. But the game selection is also limited, and unfortunately only includes the standard Vista editions like Chess and Mine Sweeper.
Alienware includes a Respawn mechanism if you want to reload the operating system, with the option of keeping all your current data. The technical reference manual can be loaded from the start menu and it outlines the system features, and provides helpful information if you want to upgrade your Area-51 system.
The internals of the Alienware Area-51 are very clean and follow the documentation perfectly. The cabling is put neatly out of sight, and this leaves ample space for the liquid cooling system and its hoses and clips. The internal hardware is excellent, and well matched to the other components. The only potential flaw was the lack of DDR3-1600, especially as the Core 2 Extreme processor is the only model to support FSB1600 and has the CPU bandwidth to make use of it.